“Don’t trust anyone over 30” has been the battle cry for teenagers since the 1960s. But now, just as the people who loudly proclaimed it have crossed that line in the sand, so has one of the most signature teen films in film history. John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” has hit the big three o, but unlike the generations of teenagers who first watched it, the nerd, the jock, the princess, the basket case and the criminal are still symbols of teen culture.
Coming off his directorial debut, “Sixteen Candles,” just a year before, Hughes brought together some of the biggest young stars of the 80s for his next high school drama that would focus on five completely different kids who must spend an entire Saturday stuck together in detention. As the day drags out they learn how they all aren’t simply labeled by the clicks they belong to during school hours.
Perhaps the biggest key to “The Breakfast Club” is that it is simple. Five characters each with their own distinct personality. Each character has their own issue, while maybe not earth shattering, that certainly speaks to its teen audience. The library setting forces interaction between the characters. Lastly, principal Vernon serves as an antagonist and manifestation of the older generation. There’s no twist or big reveal in the story, just a group of teens expressing what makes them tick and how they view the world.
It was compelling then, “The Breakfast Club” grossed over $45 million despite an R-rating, and it continues to compel now. “The Breakfast Club” is right up there with “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” as Hughes seminal work and is practically required viewing for teens across the country. It’s status as a cultural icon is certainly still very much alive, in part due to its icon final moments.
Between the narration of Anthony Michael Hall and company of the assignment Vernon gave the kids during their detention, the Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me” and the final image of Judd Nelson’s victorious fist pump, “The Breakfast Club’s” finale scene is easily one of the most recognizable endings to a film.
John Hughes is unfortunately no longer with us to celebrate the anniversary of his film. The actors’ stars have faded. The teen film genre has been built up, torn down and subverted. But the one thing that remains constant is that “The Breakfast Club” is a classic. Thirty years later the world has answered the Simple Minds request with “we won’t.”